Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why We Play

I wanted to talk a little bit today about why do we play not just WoW, but video games in general. You see here lately, I have heard and even said that playing X game should be a fun experience and not feel like a second job. This debate recently came up very strongly within my guild in relation to raiding. I am not going into details, since emotions ran high, but the short story is that I am forced to consider the notion that not everyone views having fun in the same way. At least that is the impression that they would have the rest of us to believe. I do not find losing to be fun though, and that is what we are going to look at today in this very post.

I have a simple question to ask you to start this discussion off today. Can you name me the teams who finished last in any given sport for a one decade period? I imagine that like myself, you are not able to just ramble off these teams without checking some sort of resource to confirm the information. In all honesty, I imagine very few people would even be able to come close to naming them without a lot of help. The truth is that people do not like losing and there is no focus on this, that is the reason you could not ramble off a list of teams that finished last. The sad truth is that people lose their jobs for being losers or performing poorly. So what does last place have to do with having fun with a video game? My point thus far is to show that no one likes losing and losing is anything but fun. We are going to now take a closer look at video games to even look a little deeper at this topic.

I remember the very first time I played Super Mario Brothers, I was a young Ruhtra and it was a lot of fun pounding on the heads of those Goombas! Well, it was fun while I was alive, but when my little Mario died it was not nearly as much fun. I would even say that as the game grew older, dieing became downright maddening. It was especially aggrevating when you had worked exceptionally hard to make it all the way to the end to see little Mario die to an unexpected hammer throw or fireball. I also remember the very first time that I defeated Bowser in the final castle, it felt amazing to my young little heart. At that time in my life I felt like I had just won a championship. While it was fun at first to get in there and explore the environment, it soon were off and only by winning and defeating Bowser did I truly feel like I was having fun. In other words, by winning, the game became fun again.

So let's move a little closer in time to the age of the fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. As a teenager to early twenties, I loved the fighting genre. There was nothing better than throwing down and winning a brawl. I found a lot of fun in the evening to sit down with my Father and challenge him in these fighting games. I would often hear the words "perfect" and "flawless victory" while we played and that caused me to enjoy those experiences that much more. My Father on the hand found no fun, joy, or pleasure in getting the stuffing beat out of his character. I also remember on those rare occassions where I would miss a combination or a battery would die and my Father would take advantage of this and anhilate my character, those times were not a lot of fun. Of course watching my Father get excited and happy that he beat me, no matter the reason, did bring some amusement to the frustration of losing. In short, a loss was no where near the fun as the multitudes of victories that I was use to having. Are you starting to get where I am going with this?

Let's bring the conversation to the present. On our guild forums we have a flash arcade with a few hundred simple games available to play. As soon as we added this feature I jumped on and ran up a bunch of top scores, which has since been decimated by other guild members. I can freely say that I do not find it fun to log in and see a new message in my personal message box notifying me that another score has been beat. To be completely honest, a lot of these games I dispised and simply play to attempt to beat the other player's high score. So why play? It is simple really, I enjoy the challenge of attempting to beat something and I love the feeling of defeating someone's high score. There is a drive, that I believe is in all of us, that drives us to be the best that we can be. I honestly believe that the people who beat my scores did not just do it because they love those games, but did it because it is fun to beat something and win.

So you may be wondering where I am going with all this talk about winning, losing, and having fun while playing a video game? I am trying to make a point that people like winning and accomplishing something far more than losing. I am also making the point that it is far more fun to play any game, not just WoW, when you are accomplishing something in the game. If you set out to do something, then why not do it well? In direct relation to the very first thing I said, losing is not fun. It is anything but fun. We do not see sports teams who are congratulated for being perenial losers. No one sits down and plays a game over and over when they cannot get past a certain point, instead they look for a cheat code or find another game. I know there will always be people out there who will use excuses for poor performance, whether in the everyday life or in a video game, but to me those are simply excuses, nothing more and nothing less.

In closing I want to bring this back to WoW and inparticularly to raiding. As I said at the beginning of this post, there was a rather strong debate that resulted with some hurt feelings over having fun while raiding. I think everyone should have fun while playing the game and I understand that you may not want to take the time to be prepared and feel that this should not prevent you from having fun. What about the other nine people who did put in the time and showed up prepared? Even if it were only six people who put the time in, you are taking the enjoyment and fun away from them because you are letting them down. It only takes a few minutes to pull up a site with a strategy or to watch a video on the net, why not be considerate of the rest of your team and do these little things? I also understand that some people do not learn by reading or watching, but rather doing. I can appreciate that. I am somewhat like that myself, but I still put a little time in to read up on what is going on so I have an understanding of what should occurr. I realize that everyone may have a slightly different definition of what fun is, but I think we can all agree that using fun as an excuse to show up unprepared is anything but fun for everyone else who must then suffer because of your idea of fun.

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